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sanger-bomber-launch-2
1964 – and beyond


President Kennedy, in his second term, sent a perfunctory congratulatory note to an aging Adolf Hitler. “You have your system of government, and we have ours – but we can agree to celebrate the achievement of German science.” It was an empty gesture. The nation’s economy was three-quarters of its former size, and any hope the United States had of becoming a world power again had been crushed in March of 1944.

In the Pacific, the Japanese had consolidated their gains in Hawai’I and Alaska – while Hawai’i became a Japanese prefecture in 1948, Alaska became a state in 1961 – but the Aleutian chain was not on the U.S. map – it belonged to Japan; their air and naval bases there constantly patrolled the west coast of the U.S., assisting their German allies with the task of assuring a ‘peaceful America’.

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(ME-262 “Sturmvogel” – the world’s first production jet fighter)

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Hitler’s decision to leave North America alone after the war was based on two realities – first, he hadn’t the personnel to occupy the region; second, the advice of Goering and Goebbels proved true – render the Americans impotent, and the problem of a resurgent America is solved – in Goebbels’ words, “They were content to let us take Europe while they sat behind their borders – what else will change, really?” In the end, history has proven him correct.

The occasional refugee which manages to leave Europe and come to North America through the neutral nations in Africa and South America have told chilling stories — almost-unbelieveable tales of population resettlement, largely along ethnic lines — however, these stories have never been substantiated, and are largely dismissed.

What is really happening in Europe today is the subject of modest speculation on an intellectual level – but the U.S. can take no concrete action, even if there were sufficient interest.

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(Artist’s Rendering – Messerschmitt ME-P1112 – specifications and testing showed this fighter/interceptor capable of speeds in excess of 1,000KPH)

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The cost of isolationism – with its resulting loss of trade — was high. Food shortages, unemployment and crime were chronic in America. The population had actually decreased to 1880’s levels, and some diseases which were on the brink of being eradicated in America in the 1930’s had made a resurgence.

The United States military was a fraction of even its 1940 size. U.S. naval bases were restricted to home-waters; since the war, U.S. shipyards had produced nothing larger than a destroyer. The U.S. Navy, in spite of repeated requests by the Navy Department to upgrade the fleet, still has several aging battleships in its inventory, although the oldest of them, the USS Arizona, had been retired in 1955. Today, it sits, along with many other ships, in the mothball fleet in Bremerton, Washington.

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The Players – And Reality:

Eugen Sanger (1905-1964) was a driven man whose thesis in college on the theories of space flight were determined to be too fanciful. He caught the eye of the Reich Aviation Ministry, which requested his assistance in the creation of a bomber which could reach America. Sanger’s work on the project, actually conducted in Trauen, was instrumental in creating technologies and physical theories which later found their way into the X-15 and the Space Shuttle. His discoveries regarding the twin concepts of ‘body lift’ (using the entire body of an aircraft to create lift), and ‘compression lift’ (using the shockwave of a supersonic flight to literally ‘carry’ a craft in the stratosphere) were instrumental in the construction of the Concorde, the XB-70 “Valkyrie”, and several other aircraft.

In reality, Sanger’s work was cancelled, having been deemed too expensive to pursue after the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. He worked on other projects, but never pursued the “Silverbird” beyond that point.

The theory of a suborbital bomber like the ‘Silverbird’ was sound. Although the artists’ renderings were of a design which would not have worked (I mentioned the wings and tail-section in my counterfactual), these were well within the scope and technology of the time to find and ‘fix’. In the counterfactual, I did so, even though the renderings show a twin-tailed aircraft with fixed wings.

(Anecdotally, the segment regarding a ‘confetti bomb’ has basis in fact. We tested the new Norden bombsight over Germany not by dropping confetti-bombs, but by dropping leaflet-bombs and looking for postings in German newspapers about the leaflets, knowing that the German propaganda machine would be too efficient for its own good. We obtained a wealth of knowledge regarding the accuracy of the sight in this manner – simply by making the other side do our work for us! What I did in my counterfactual was to simply reverse the sides.)

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) was a physicist and protégé of Niels Bohr and Otto Hahn. He was rapidly promoted within the structure of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute from 1934 on, mainly due to the ‘brain drain’ experienced by Germany after their persecution of Jewish people, of which many were scientists, including Albert Einstein. While he discovered the theory and could have likely done so, the reasons why Heisenberg did not actually build an atomic weapon for Germany remains an unresolved mystery.

Heisenberg’s participation in the German atomic-bomb project has been the subject of much speculation. It has been alternately proposed that Heisenberg either delayed his own work out of moral considerations, or did so from a lack of focus. In my counterfactual, I provided Heisenberg with the ‘ultimate manager’ – Eugen Sanger, to whom I gave total control over the bomb-project and the suborbital bomber.

Dr. Hellmuth Walter (1900-1980) was a German physicist who applied his knowledge of liquids and gases to the construction of propulsion systems. Not stopping there, he also designed the series of what are known as “Walter boats” – the Type XXI, XXIII, and XXVI U-boats. Designed for primary operations underwater, they presaged both the Albacore and Nautilus designs post-WWII.

The Type XXI was produced as stated in my counterfactual; segments were constructed and assembled in prefab-stations at shipyards at Kiel and Hamburg. There were, indeed, plans to launch V-1 ‘buzz bombs’ from the deck of the Type XXI when it went into production – creating, in effect, the first sea-launched cruise-missile (this was actually done by the U.S. Navy in 1946, under the “Loon” program).

Walter’s propulsion system, which used a pure form of hydrogen peroxide as a catalyst to produce steam, was prone to spontaneous explosion if not constructed to some exacting specifications – which meant that it was never produced by Germany during wartime, although tests showed it to be as efficient as early submarine-based nuclear systems. He eventually emigrated to the United States and worked for an engineering firm before retiring.

Adolf Galland (1912-1996) was perhaps Germany’s best-known and most-talented fighter pilot. He served in the Spanish Civil War prior to WWII; his trademark cigar and “Mickey Mouse” cartoon on his aircraft became well-known throughout Germany. Increasingly critical of the war effort and of Hitler, he was arrested in January of 1945 and put under house-arrest until March of 1945, when he was recalled to duty and put in command of an ME-262 (jet) fighter squadron, where he achieved a good measure of success, although too late to be of value to the Reich.

Postwar, he was held as a prisoner for a time, then lectured on tactics and ran his own aviation consulting company until his death in 1996.

Trauen is the current home of a branch office of the German space program. Sanger’s research was also conducted there (see above). I created the complex there in my counterfactual for some pretty good reasons – it’s remote; it’s sparsely-populated, and the counterpoint to the beauty of the region made for some good writing!

Messerschmitt was a real aviation company in Germany, and was one of the most prolific designers of aircraft during World War II. Their sometimes-futuristic designs led to the production of the world’s-first jet fighter, the ME-262. While the 262 did not see actual production due to National Socialist party interference until late 1944, its brief impact was so significant that Allied bombing raids were tasked with destroying all factories and airfields building and supporting them.

The Messerchmitt ME-1112 – the fastest design of those created by the company – could have achieved speeds of 1,000KPH – if produced when designed in 1938, it could have altered the course of the war.

(The other characters are a matter of public record. Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism, isolationism, and America First membership are also a matter of record, and are well defined in his wartime journals).

References:

Third Reich Victorious (Tsouras; Greenhill Books – 2002)

Secrets of WWII (Dunnigan; Harper-Row; 1996)

Luft46 (Website) – Note: Artist’s renderings and artwork of German aircraft, including ‘Silbervogel’, are courtesy of this fine website, which was developed as a repository for information on German aviation research from the years 1932-1945.

Luftwaffe Project Aircraft (Johnson and Sabatini; Johnson Press; 2002)

We Now Know – Rethinking Cold War History (Gaddis; Council on Foreign Relations – 1998)

Target America (Duffy; Praeger Publishers – 2004)

Sanger: Germany’s Orbital Rocket Bomber (Myhra; Schiffer Publishers – 2002)

Wartime Journals of Charles Lindbergh (Lindbergh; Harcourt; Brace – 1970)


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silbervogel-over-new-york


(‘Silbervogel’ – Over New York)

In June of 1943, National Socialist Germany, along with the Empire of Japan, began what became known as World War II, or the Nine-Month War.

Having annexed Austria in late 1942, Germany already had additional bases from which to flank the Czechs. Poland and Czechoslovakia immediately joined the ‘Greater German Reich’, allowing German troops to cross their borders unhindered as half a million German troops crossed into Russia.

Six weeks after entering Russia, Moscow fell to overwhelming German military superiority. Stalin, attempting to flee, was dragged from his private train car and lynched along with Beria, Molotov, and several other party apparatchiks.

Russia out of the war, Hitler turned to France and England. His lightning attacks through the Netherlands and through the Maginot Line in early August of 1943 destroyed the French army in days.

Simultaneously attacking the British naval base at Scapa Flow and savaging most British airbases with carrier-borne ME-262 jets, the British had little in the way of airpower or naval power by the end of the first week. Lindbergh, in his second term, could do little to help the British.

The Kriegsmarine’s Type XXI submarines strangled British trade. With over sixty dedicated to the British Isles alone, no merchant shipping left or arrived in British ports for four long months. While the Kriegsmarine lost just two Type XXI’s, the actual tonnage of lost British shipping may never be known. Deprived of supplies, Great Britain could only wait for the inevitable invasion.

By November, German paratroops had secured southern England and parts of Scotland. Having savaged the landing beaches by seaborne V-1’s, the Germans met little opposition. By January of 1944, with two German army groups converging on London from the north and south, Great Britain, after evacuating the royal family to Canada via Wales, surrendered.

The Japanese victories and subsequent occupations at Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i and Dutch Harbor in the Territory of Alaska gave the Japanese bases from which to attack the west coast of the United States with relative ease. A minor American naval victory (which cost the Japanese three carriers out of twelve) off San Diego in January, 1944 did little to stop their advance.

Securing and consolidating their holdings in the Philippines, Malaya, Indonesia, and the Solomons, the Japanese next turned their attentions to Australia and New Zealand. With no help from the Americans or their Commonwealth ‘mother country’, both nations rapidly signed peace accords with the Empire of Japan in early 1944.

Trauen

Herr Oberst?

Ja.” Oberst Adolf Galland was in the ready room at Trauen, smoking a cigar. The Trauen plant was now under Luftwaffe control, and was now called an “Atomic Weapons Branch” base. He was getting himself mentally ready to fly the Silbervogel again – this time on a real mission.

“I must brief you, Herr Oberst.”, said the young Leutnant, a man named Werner.

“Well, Leutnant. Let’s have it.”

“Your coordinates for course-correction are being entered into the analog calculator. They will automatically fly the plane until you get to the drop point. You will have to visually determine whether or not you can drop your weapon on New York; if there is a storm of any kind, we’re concerned about the bomb drifting off its course once the parachute is activated at 1,500 meters.”

“So, I’m along for the ride until we reach New York. If I can’t drop there, what do I do?”

“Simply press the button labeled “Secondary Target” on the analog device. You’ll be directed to the second target. You’ll need to execute an engine-burn until you reach an altitude of 180 kilometers. You’ll proceed to the second target; the analog device will do the navigation until you arrive.”

“And what is this secondary-target, Leutnant?”

“It is the American city of Seattle, Washington. The Americans have a large aircraft factory there. They are beginning to build bombers there; it is also one of their largest port cities.”

Leutnant, I did finish gymnasium, you know.” Galland was impatient. Having to tell a Leutnant that he’d finished the German equivalent of high-school was the best way to get him to move along.

“My apologies, Herr Oberst. The calculations are entered; the drop-points for the two targets are now automatic. The only thing you have to do is get the craft to those points, and return.”

Galland glared at the young Leutnant. He might as well have told Galland that he was a passenger, instead of a pilot.

“They’re expecting me, Leutnant.” Galland stood to leave.

“Good luck, sir!”, said Leutnant Werner.

As with the first test, and two subsequent ones, Galland was helped into the cockpit, strapped in, systems tested, hoses and lines disconnected, and the craft made ready for launch. The bleachers, however, were gone – this was a military site now, not a research facility – it was the first launch-platform for an atomic weapons system.

Waiting for the countdown to commence, Galland thought, “It’s a good thing we were able to stop the English bombers cold. The new jets from Messerschmitt saw to that – especially those ME-1112’s, with the V-tail. Testing those wasn’t just a challenge – it was fun. Eleven hundred kilometers an hour! Galland cracked a smile through his pencil-moustache. He thought, “Germany is the greatest nation on earth.”

Herr Oberst? Countdown commences now.” The voice through the helmet-headset sounded metallic. Still, it electrified him. Part of being a combat-pilot; he lived for the adrenalin and the excitement.

Soon, the booster-engine slammed him into his seat. Within seconds, he was vertical. Seconds later, the booster shut down and was jettisoned. Like clockwork, the main engine fired, stabbing yellow-orange flame for a hundred feet beneath him; within a few minutes, he nosed the plane over, and began his run.

Berlin

“I am sick of the Americans, Goering. Our Japanese allies are clamoring for us to do something. It’s time to end this.”

“We have not declared war on them, Mein Fuhrer. This will not go well.”

“We let the Japanese do that, Goering.”, said Hitler. “We’re just honoring a treaty with them. Besides – after today, we will get to write the rules. All of them.” Hitler smiled at his own statement.

New York City – 10:52AM; March 4th, 1944

— “Whaddya want? Ya readin’ or buyin’? I PAY for those magazines, ya know? Kids!” The news vendor on Broadway was busy, but there were always people who’d read and not buy. Chasing them out was a daily chore….

— “That’ll be a buck twenty-five, most likely, depending on traffic across the Washington. You in? Hustle up!” The cabbie woke up every morning knowing that dinner depended on a delicate mix of aggressive and friendly….

— “Twenty bid! Twenty bid! No higher!” The trader, on the main floor of the Stock Exchange, was trying to buy Packard and sell GM – there were rumors of war, and Packard was better-suited to build engines….

— “I love you, Elaine. Will you marry me?” The young man at the top of the Empire State Building was on one knee in front of a pretty blonde; everyone standing around the two beamed….

Below them, horses clopped through Central Park; sausage-vendors plied their trade in Little Italy; people in the Hamptons were likely just finishing breakfast; the privilege of money….

None of them noticed the parachute. None of them noticed the device at 1,000 feet over the Hudson. Then, there was only light and heat.

In the center, there was no sound.

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12 May; 1964

Adolf Galland stood in the control center at the German space complex at Trauen. He was watching the telemonitors as Sanger’s latest creation, the German MoonShip (a cooperative venture between Messerschmitt, Blohm and Voss, and a dozen other contractors) began its descent.

Germany was now the master of half the world. Russia was now providing cheap labor and raw materials for the Reich. Europe was German. So was most of northern Africa, and east through Palestine and Persia. Italy was an ally; albeit somewhat reluctantly.

America had capitulated two days after the bomb fell on New York. Constant overflights by German spyplanes and satellites saw to it that any ill-advised attempt by the U.S. to rearm would be brought immediately to the Reichschancellor’s attention….

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Down fifty meters; forward ten – I have a ground-contact light. Shutting down engines.” Major Wilhelm Heermann and Oberleutnant Walter Hewel – son of an early National Socialist diplomat – were the pilot and co-pilot of the first attempt to land on the moon. Aptly, they had named their craft the “Eagle”.

There was a pause. Transmissions had to come from a staggering distance. Even Galland held his breath.

The silence was cut by a carrier wave, and then Heermann’s voice. Tranquility Base here; the ‘Eagle’ has landed!”

A spontaneous cheer erupted. Germany had now conquered the moon itself.

Two hours later, as Galland, VonBraun – now the head of the Reich’s Rocket and Space Agency – and the others in the Trauen control center watched the telemonitors, Heermann opened the ‘Eagle’s hatch, stepped on to a deployed-ladder, and took five steps downward, finishing by placing one foot on the lunar surface. “We come in Aryan brotherhood!”, he said, to more cheers from the assembled team.

Galland grinned, ear to ear. The ‘Eagle’”, he thought. Not my ‘Eagle’ – but an Eagle, nonetheless.” Werner VonBraun slapped Galland on the back. “We wouldn’t be here without you, Herr Generalfeldmarschall”, said VonBraun, addressing Galland by his title. Galland had headed the German Luftwaffe since shortly after the end of the war; an iconic figure in the tradition of VonRichtofen.

That much was true. Galland had championed the use of his pilots; seconded to the new Reich Rocket Space Agency. As to the ‘Silbervogel’, it was retired – now a museum-piece and taking on an iconic aura of its own; an inspiration for the craft – now two generations removed – which now sat on the moon.

Almost unnoticed in the gallery was Werner Heisenberg. His mentor and friend, Eugen Sanger, had died three months before.

Not given to emotion, he didn’t cheer. He smiled instead.

You would be proud, Herr Doktor.”, he thought. I am.”

(Next – Epilogue)


silbervogel-landing-at-trauen

(‘Silbervogel’ – Landing at Trauen Airfield Complex)

Obersaltzburg

“Kommen!”

Goering entered Hitler’s study in the Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle’s Nest – it had been presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday the year before in 1939; a present from the Party, instigated by Martin Bormann. Hitler didn’t use the place much, but when he did, it made the perfect retreat.

Goering could never figure out what Bormann did, outside of look important. But, he was one of the oldest Party members, and hence the person Hitler could point to and say, “Stick with me; I’ll stick with you!” It was the only reason. Unless, of course, Bormann had photos of the Fuhrer in compromising positions –

Hitler broke Goering’s reverie with some impatience. “Goering! Did you see this?” Hitler was beaming; holding up a copy of the Zeitung and tapping the third page with a forefinger.

The article was a small and rather obtuse feature; in it, there was news of a bright-red finned cylinder which had dropped from a plane by parachute, and popped confetti over the Manhattan Island shoreline. Local officials were trying to find out who had dropped it and what they were promoting, as there had been no permit issued, there hadn’t been a plane in the area and it wasn’t a holiday.

“Sanger was right, Goering! Drop confetti on the Americans and they’ll think it’s a prank! Meanwhile, we proved that we can drop a bomb on an American city with enough accuracy! Now, all we need is the BOMB!”

Goering smiled, uncomfortably. The study was a small room, and he never did well in confined spaces. So that was Sanger’s secret?, Goering thought. He actually tested the guidance system as well? Good! Good!

“Goering, I want some answers.”

“Yes, Mein Fuhrer. What may I do for you?”

“I want to know when we are to see the weapon we’ve been promised from the Trauen project. I want to know when Raeder is going to have enough submarines to blockade America and England. I want to know when Messerschmitt is going to be done with this new engine and the new aircraft. I want to know when Porsche is going to have these new tanks – what does he call them? Cats, I think – “Panthers and Tigers”; yes – I want to know when he’ll have them finished. And what of the new rifles? We’ve been promised a fully-automatic rifle from Mauser for over a year now.”

Such a list, thought Goering. Such a list.

Trauen

“The extraction process is complete, Herr Doktor. Between Hahn’s team and mine, we have completed the process of refining the denser explosive-metal – as you know, we are calling it ‘Plutonium’ – from the spent Uranium in the powerplant reactors. We now have enough for four weapons.”

Heisenberg continued his presentation to Sanger, Himmler, and Goering. “We will need to test two of the four in order to ensure that we can replicate the reaction. Then, we’ll take what we’ve learned and create the next two within the 3,600 kilogram payload specifications outlined in the Silbervogel project.”

Goering spoke first. “When will you be ready to test?”

“In about three months, Herr Reichsmarschall. June 15th, 1940 is our target.”

“Excellent!” Himmler, in his squeaky voice, chimed in. “Excellent! The Fuhrer will be pleased!” Himmler reminded Heisenberg of nothing so much as a weasel. Although weasels had a use in nature. Heisenberg was not so sure about Himmler.

Heisenberg continued. “There will be a need for absolute secrecy. We must test in international territory, somewhere so remote that there will be no knowledge of our presence. We’ve come up with three possible sites.”

Moving to the map-board, he continued. “Northern Greenland isn’t international, but it is accessible by U-Boat and no one would be the wiser. The Arctic is largely international, and is also accessible by submarine that time of year. The third possibility is to transport the weapon by submarine to China, and test it under Japanese auspices.”

“Number three is out, Herr Heisenberg.”, said Goering. “We will not share this technology with the Japanese.”

“We were already preparing feasibilities for Greenland. The northeastern peninsula of Christiaanland is unpopulated; no one would ever know we were there.”, said Heisenberg.

(‘Silbervogel’ — over Illinois; Great Lakes in background – after test-run to New York)
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Goering spoke with finality. “Get what you need from Raeder; tell him it’s from me. You will have your U-Boat, your crew, and anything else you need to haul this thing to Greenland and set it off. The Fuhrer is waiting.” Standing, Goering signaled an end to the meeting.

Afterward, Sanger said, “That went well, Heisenberg. Now – can you do all this?”

“Yes, Herr Doktor. I can honestly say that without your focus and drive, I might not have done so.” Heisenberg was proud, as a boy would be after having proven he could multiply and divide. Sanger was happy; he’d been right, after all.

Heisenberg had just needed a nudge.

Kiel

“Final specifications?”

Herr Grosadmiral, the specifications are as follows.” The representative from Blohm and Voss Shipyards was clearly nervous; this project had been in the works since its initial design in 1937, and it was, again, Goering who’d championed it. They were all justifiably proud of the result – giving the design to the Japanese had proven a master-stroke.

“We have improved significantly on the original design with the help of the Japanese.”, he began. “The Japanese have experimented with alloys which, while expensive, will enable us to dive the submarine – designated Type XXI — to over 450 meters. Top speed submerged is a little over 22 knots in standard measure, with a top surface speed of a little under 18 knots.”

“Phenomenal!”, said Raeder. “Continue, please!”

“It is fitted with both radar and underwater-detection equipment. Passive weaponry include an array of noisemakers which may be jettisoned into the water to confuse surface ships, plus preloaded decoy materials – another idea of the Japanese – to make a surface-ship think they’ve sunk the submarine.”

Raeder smiled. The best solutions were the simplest.”, he thought. The speaker continued. “The Type XXI is fitted with six torpedo tubes and 24 torpedoes. We have modified our tubes to handle the Japanese ‘Long Lance’ wakeless torpedo.”

“When may we expect the first ones?”, Raeder said.

“In early 1942, Herr Grosadmiral.”

“Excellent! How many are on order?”

“One hundred and twenty five. We are building them pre-fabricated, in plants all over Germany. The components will be brought to our yards here in Kiel and in Hamburg, and assembled, tested, painted, fitted, and launched. The order should be filled completely by the end of 1942.”

“Again; excellent! Now, I have something to review with you.” Raeder rolled out one set of plans with another still in a storage-tube. “I need one of our large Type IX submarines re-fitted with this cylinder, like so.”, he pointed to a large cylindrical shape on the deck of plan-elevation. “The specifications are on the subsequent pages. I need this done by the end of May.”

The Blohm and Voss representative wondered why the navy’s highest-ranking officer was dispatched from Berlin to perform a task that a junior engineer would have assigned to a courier – but strange things were happening nowadays; there was talk over at the aviation wing of new engines, and planes that didn’t need propellers….

“And this – which is of greater importance.” Raeder had already given the first set of plans to the rep, and rolled out the second. “There will be a representative from the Special Branch of the Todt Organisation here next week. He will be giving you the actuals on this. However, they are designing a new powerplant for your new submarine. Diesels and batteries will be replaced by this powerplant.”

“Ah! The Walter plant?”, said the representative.

“No. Walter’s powerplant can provide excellent speed, but it is too dangerous. This one will allow you to drive your submarine to even higher speeds – and it won’t require refueling for over 100,000 nautical miles.”

The rep’s eyes widened. Raeder continued. “The Fiesler people also want a mount built here.” – Raeder pointed to the rear deck – “in place of the deck gun. It is to be built as shown; it will mount flush-to-the-deck and then may be raised and locked in place at any angle. Again, the elevations are shown in the drawings; the details are below.”

“Fiesler! Do they want to launch V-1’s from the deck?” The Blohm and Voss rep’s mouth was now open.

Raeder smiled, and addressed him as he would an errant schoolboy. “It is best not to ask too many questions. Just get these to your superiors. Have them call me directly with any questions of their own.” He all but patted the young man on his head. “Thank you for your time. Now, I must go.”

Raeder turned, and left a very puzzled but motivated man behind.

Trauen

Summer was nearly upon them. Again, the maples and birches were in full leaf; the field-grasses in the distance were turning brown; if it were a hayfield, the farmers would be thinking already about the harvest.

Instead, Heisenberg was thinking about the test.

The math was right. They’d solved the main problem – how to create a reaction – and again, the simplest ideas were the best. It just required timing.

They’d created a small analog device to trigger high-explosives in a precise order. These explosives were placed around the inside of the front-dome of the bomb. In front of the explosives was the plutonium core.

If what they’d created really worked – and they’d tested it on a non-reactive target – the resulting shockwave would be ‘focused’ on the plutonium core, causing neutrons to spin off their nuclear ‘orbit’, and collide with other nuclei.

The result would be the spontaneous release of the energy within matter itself – a ‘chained-reaction’ as he called it – which would, within a fraction of a second, release all the energy within the plutonium at once.

The resulting explosion and destructive force would be staggering. They’d estimated it around ten thousand metric tons of conventional explosive.

He could only guess at the damage something like that could do. Level a city? Part of a city? Destroy a whole army? Without one German life lost? It was worth it.

“Herr Heisenberg?”

“Ja.” Heisenberg didn’t even look up. He was involved in more administrative work; things were so secret that a lot of the product ordering – especially for the bomb – was left to the physicists themselves, and this was no exception.

“The Blohm and Voss people are here for you.” Heisenberg’s aide was quiet and intense; respectful and invisible, at least most of the time.

“Ah! Send them in!” Seated; Heisenberg got to the point – something he was learning from Sanger. “What brings you here?”

“We have the design-specifications for the cylinder which was requested through Admiral Raeder’s office.”, said one of the engineers. “We’d like to review it with you.”

A half-hour went by; excruciating details, but they boiled down to this: The cylinder would work; it would store the bomb; it would be waterproof; it would resist pressures up to 1,000 meters if necessary, and it was lead-lined against any escaping radiation. That was all he wanted to know.

That, and the fact that it was ready. It was time to go to Greenland.

Christiaanland

The temperature was anything but warm. Plus it was nearly midnight, and although low on the horizon, the sun was still up – something he’d’ve thought impossible otherwise, even in early June. While everyone was pleased that they’d beaten their test-date by two weeks, the seasickness Heisenberg endured on the way up to Greenland was torture, as well as the conditions. How on earth the submariners tolerated sleeping with each other’s presence so close-by was beyond him. It was like being a caged animal.

The deck was welcome relief from the stifling confines, even if the temperature was still hovering around four degrees.

The inflatable floatation-system created a ‘raft’ around the cylinder – a crane which had been shipped flat on the U-124 had been erected; the captain, a man named Mohr, had done his best to accommodate an unusual but critical assignment.

“I don’t know what you’re up to – but Admiral Raeder himself told me that this was of the utmost importance. Skipping Admiral Doenitz was a breach of protocol – but I suppose rank has its privileges, eh?” Kapitanleutnant Johann Mohr was on the bridge with Heisenberg. Heisenberg vaguely heard the jovial and high-energy Mohr speaking. He was watching the progress.

He’d brought several technicians with him; there was no need to go ashore, and he hadn’t planned on it.

The cylinder slid off the deck in its inflated collar with a resounding splash. Sailors in inflatable dinghies lashed onto the collar and started small outboard motors. Pulling the cylinder, even in sheltered seas, would have been problematic, but in the stiff breeze there was a worry that it might just sink.

After ten excruciating minutes, they had the raft on the sand. Hitting the quick-release valves on the collar, they guaranteed that the cylinder – along with its cargo – would go nowhere again. Heisenberg’s technicians fitted the receiver and antenna to the cylinder, and then headed back to U-124.

All men safely aboard and with U-124 standing out to sea, Heisenberg thought that the cylinder looked like nothing so much as an egg-in-a-nest.

An eagle’s nest.”, he said to himself.

Wass?”, Mohr said.

“Oh, nothing.”, said Heisenberg. “Just passing time.”

At a distance of 18 kilometers, Mohr ordered U-124 to kill her engines and come to a dead-stop. “All right, Herr Doktor; it’s all yours.”, Mohr said. “I’m going below.”

Heisenberg asked for the detonation switch. The switch was connected to an FM transmitter which would send a signal to the cylinder. The second officer, who remained on the bridge, said, “Now, remember – the moment I say ‘go’, you get down that hatch. I’m right after you.”

Heisenberg pointed to the man’s sunglasses in his watch-coat pocket. The second officer of U-124 donned his sunglasses along with Heisenberg.

Heisenberg then flipped a switch to activate the circuit, lifted a switch-cover, and pressed the button under it.

A moment later, the horizon began growing brighter in the twilight. This continued until a large ball of light illuminated the submarine; the ocean – everything around them.

It was as if the sun had risen out of the ground. Heisenberg was mesmerized.

The second-officer had better training. He leaned over the round hatch opening and screamed, “ALARM!”

Klaxons hooted. Heisenberg could hear the air rushing out of vents under the deck; he felt the electric motors start. His reverie broken, he dropped through the hatch, followed quickly by the second-officer.

Pushed rather rudely aside by a passing sailor, Heisenberg remained there in the conning tower. A moment later, he was shoved aside again, this time by the shock wave traveling through the water. This was why the captain insisted on diving as soon as the device was detonated.

The prevailing winds were north and east. U-124 traveled south for half a day, then surfaced. Heisenberg handed the radio operator a message.

“Exactly as it is written. Send nothing else.”, Heisenberg said.

Puzzled, the radio operator tapped out the message in Morse:

“German explorer has reached the New World.”


(Next — Aquila in Mare Tranquillitatis)


sanger-bomber-during-launch

(‘Silbervogel’ – at launch)

Trauen

“It was a good idea to locate here, Herr Doktor. There are never any tourists in Trauen.” Heisenberg reveled in the late-summer/early-fall weather; the peaceful sound of a light breeze in the trees – he’s managed to tune-out the sound of the cranes and other equipment during the ramp’s construction – so when the ramp was completed and the painters came to do their work, the silence was deafening at first.

Then, the engine-testing began. Several of them exploded – until they realized that regulating the combustion-chamber pressure was a necessity; it took VonBraun to figure that out, and when he did, the engines exceeded their thrust-goals.

The large building which housed the Bird itself was guarded day and night – as were every road for ten miles around. Buying out the local farmers had cost a fortune – but the Party had done so, to guarantee absolute secrecy. While engine tests were still being performed, what had really made it possible to get this far, this fast, was the fact that the nation was not at war.

He’d heard that Herr Hitler had contemplated invading France and Poland by late 1939 – and that he’d been talked out of it by Goering and others until the new generation of weapons were ready. He didn’t know much about such things, and like VonBraun, didn’t really want to know.

He was happy to have produced the powerplants which saw to it that the nation never paid a power-bill. He was still working on the bomb – and with Hahn at his side, it was closer to completion than he’d dreamed.

Yes, the Fatherland would be safe once he was done –

Interrupting his thoughts, Sanger said, “I’ll need your progress report by Tuesday, Heisenberg. The Fuhrer is insisting that we all stay on task.”

Ja, Herr Doktor.”, replied Heisenberg. “I will have it for you. Hahn and I have determined that it will take only this much” – he held two palms together, in a shape that roughly equated to a mango – “to make a bomb.”

“Good. Very good.”, replied Sanger. “I don’t know about these things. You do. My job is to manage both projects, as well as to provide my design and input on the Bird. How is the separation process coming?”

“We have determined that the best way is to collect Plutonium chemically from the graphite control rods of the powerplant reactors, Herr Doktor. As only small amounts are created, we have teams harvesting the powerplants on a weekly basis.”

“Security?”

“The plant workers have been told we are simply changing the rods. Some have grumbled that we’re overmaintaining them, but that’s a minor thing. We just tell them to mind their own business.”

“Excellent!”, said Sanger, with a rare laugh. “Now – I want you to see something.”

They had been walking toward one of the buses which shuttled personnel to various parts of the by-now-huge Trauen complex. Heisenberg noticed that there were several important looking people on the bus. Boarding, he and Sanger were introduced by one of their innumerable aides, and given a seat.

They traveled the stretch between the research and administration facilities and the beginning of the rail-complex without words. When they reached the rail complex, Heisenberg noted that there was already a crowd gathered in the reviewing area about a half-kilometer away.

On the rail, steam coming from the supercooled fuel in the booster and the plane, sat the Silbervogel.

__________________________________________

Washington

“I don’t like it, Mr. President – not one damn bit!” Admiral King and Secretary of War Knox were in the Oval Office with Cordell Hull and President Lindbergh. They were poring over a map, drawn from memory, from a defected junior German SS officer.

“This fellow says that the Germans have built this contraption – it looks like a rollercoaster-to-nowhere – and the only thing he was able to learn about the project was one word – ‘Adler’- that’s German, for “Eagle”.

Hull continued. “This fellow is convinced that Hitler is going to start a damn war. He’s seen with his own eyes airplanes with no propellers that fly at incredible speeds. No, Mr. President, I don’t like it – not one little damn bit.”

Lindbergh sat behind his desk with fingers tented in front of him. After a moment, he spoke.

“Secretary Hull – how do you know this fellow didn’t concoct this story to get a free trip to America?”

Hull sighed. “Well, I don’t, Mr. President. But why would he say this if it weren’t true?”

“To get his name in the papers.”, Lindbergh said. “Until I have more proof, I’m not doing anything. Look,” he said, pointing to the front page of the Washington Post, which he held up for all to see. “Economists Fear Recession”, read the headlines. Lindbergh flipped to page five. “Germany Launches Von Richtofen – Largest Carrier Afloat” – in 16pt. type on page five, it didn’t appear ominous at all.

“If the Post isn’t worried, I’m not. I think they’ve got their priorities straight.”, Lindbergh said, putting the paper down.

“I’ve seen that ship on Swedish newsreels at their embassy here, Mr. President.”, said Secertary Knox. “Did you know that it’s built on the Japanese Shinano-class hull? The Nips and the Krauts have been trading plans for nearly ten years. It was the Krauts who convinced the Nips to drop their plans to build battleships. They converted this hull shape to a carrier. They’ve got six building in Kure and Sasebo now, and the Krauts have four more building in Hamburg and Kiel. And, if they get some of these — ‘propellerless aircraft’ on them, who knows what they could do!”

“And what do you propose we do about it, when the average American doesn’t care what happens in Japan or Germany – and is more concerned about next week’s rent?”

“Pray.”, said Knox. “It’s almost too late to do anything else.”

Admiral King’s face grew red. He knew this better than anyone. The Essex class aircraft carriers wouldn’t be ready for anything other than testing until perhaps 1943 or ’44 – and the new aircraft from Grumman and Lockheed, while good designs, weren’t the class of aircraft the Germans had designed. The main battle-line of the American navy was based on second-generation dreadnaughts – huge battleships with cage-tower masts and guns which could fire a shell twenty miles.

One of these aircraft had a range of five hundred miles – and who knew if the Leutnant from Trauen, Germany was telling the truth – and what this contraption was for.

____________________________________

Trauen

Sanger and Heisenberg walked to the podium together, as the two heads of the respective projects. Sanger was the speechmaker; he spoke briefly about serving the Fatherland; a new era; the usual. They walked to their places, and sat.

Walking to the Silverbird from the ready-shack was a man whose photo had appeared in many magazines and newspapers; Hauptmann Adolf Galland, hero of the Spanish Civil War and a bit of a rogue. Heisenberg thought him a show-off; Sanger thought he was perfect.

Waving to the crowd, Galland climbed the ladder to the cockpit; was helped into the single seat and strapped in. Sanger turned to Heisenberg, and said “We had the devil’s own time producing a pressure-suit. It was necessary in the event the cabin-pressure failed. I’m hoping that Hauptmann Galland doesn’t find it too uncomfortable. I borrowed a page from your ‘book’, Heisenberg – there’s a recirculating pump in the cockpit that’s hooked up to the suit – he should stay nice and cool.”

Heisenberg nodded. He was anxious to see the Bird fly.

So was everyone. Tests, retests, checks, rechecks – then the technicians began walking away. A klaxon sounded. Sanger nudged Heisenberg; they both put on sunglasses.

A loudspeaker droned a sonorous countdown – “…drei; zwei; ein….”

A brilliant flash – and the massed-thunder of the six engines in the booster split the very sky in front of them in a shock wave which was felt through the feet of every spectator. Involuntarily, Heisenberg put his hands over his ears, as the sound got louder, seeming to shake the very ground under them.

Restraints fell away from the rail, and the Silbervogel began to move – slowly at first, then exponentially faster. Suddenly, it was out of immediate sight, moving down the rail at a frightening rate of speed.

Galland, in the cockpit, used his radiomicrophone to read the gauges. “250; 300; 400” – he read the speed in kilometers per hour – “I’m off! Airborne!” The audience saw the Bird, now almost vertical, being chased by six yellow-orange flames and a massive shockwave.

Then, it appeared that the craft exploded. The crowd gasped – then realized that the craft hadn’t exploded – it has simply created a massive shockwave due to its speed.

The audience had witnessed the crossing of the sound barrier.

In unimpeded vertical flight, the Silbervogel attained an altitude of a little under eight kilometers, at which point the booster flamed out and was automatically jettisoned. The Silbervogel’s main engines automatically engaged, driving the craft higher.

At this point, its velocity was enough to take it to the stratosphere.

The main engines were disengaged at twenty kilometers, just as Galland nosed the Bird over. His speed could only be estimated at this point; there were ships in the Atlantic which were listening for his radio-beacon overhead; the data collected could be analyzed later for speed.

Silence. Above him, Galland saw blackness. Below, he saw the curvature of the earth. The feeling was much like falling; perpetually – in retrospect, Galland was glad he’d only had coffee to drink that morning. “Surfing” the shockwave created by such speed was still unreal – he had taken a pencil from his flight-suit and let it drop; watching it drift slowly down meant that the craft was nearly weightless due to the combination of speed, forward motion, and gravity.

Just think; if we get those in perfect balance, we can stay up here indefinitely. But how would one get back down again?”, Galland thought to himself. He checked his instruments again; simple and elegant, there was an analog calculation device which gave him longitude and latitude – something which couldn’t be done in a conventional aircraft due to cloud-cover. This gave him all the information he’d need, along with the two chronometers, to perform the second part of his mission.

He’d been watching the “is/was” (as he called it), plus the two chronometers on his panel; soon, he’d have to nose the craft downward over the western Atlantic, and begin his mock ‘run’.

The test which Sanger had devised was simple. Strange; almost laughable, but simple.

Both the primary chronometer and the analog calculator reached the predetermined points at the same time – this meant that the engine thrust-yield was spot-on; another confirmation which he could give Herr Sanger.

Galland nosed the Silbervogel over into a shallow dive. Denser air stabilized the craft, and made the second phase of his mission easier.

He pressed a button on the panel, and heard the motors behind him whine as the bay-doors opened inward (at that speed, anything which opened outward would have been immediately torn away). He checked the secondary chronometer, which gave him the exact drop-point. He watched intently as the two instruments, chronometer and calculator, reached the same point – the drop was automatic at that point; the only thing he had to do was maintain the proper altitude.

About 50 kilometers off the American coast, a bomb-shaped canister dropped from the weapons-bay of the Silbervogel. This triggered an autoswitch which immediately closed the bay doors.

Galland nosed the craft up, and fired the engines.

The impact slammed him into his seat, and took him skyward again to complete the rest of his journey. “What do the Americans say?”, he thought. “Piece of cake? Ja. Piece of cake.” He settled in for the journey home – which wouldn’t take long.

__________________________________

(Silbervogel – after booster jettison)

__________________________________

Sanger turned to Heisenberg. “Now, we wait.”

“How long, Herr Doktor?”, said Heisenberg.

“A little over an hour and a half.”, said Sanger. The crowd was already getting leaving the bleachers; there was a tour of the facility planned while the test-flight was in process.

Heisenberg was bored during the tour – there were people from the Luftwaffe and the Todt Organisation taking alternate turns telling those-present how this was a great day for the Fatherland; a great victory for German technology. While Heisenberg had not expected Chancellor Hitler to attend, in retrospect, he understood why Hitler would not have missed this one for anything.

An hour come-and-gone, they assembled back at a different set of bleachers, a couple of kilometers away. Nervously, a lot of the assembled multitude smoked cigarettes and gossiped among themselves. Suddenly, several ‘clicks’ on the ever-present loudspeakers, and the voice of Adolf Galland was clearly heard, along with two of the control-room personnel.

Silbervogel, preparing to land. I have visual.”, said Galland, although his voice sounded like it was squeezed through the ether, much like listening to a shortwave radio.

“We have you on radar, Silbervogel.” Some additional directions were stated in the form of mathematics – Heisenberg understood the principles of navigation, but not the language – and then, just as suddenly, he noticed a small silver speck, impossibly high; if it were a normal aircraft, it would be below any possible horizon.

Gradually, the speck grew larger; took on form and detail; moved a bit in the air; changed attitude, and began a descent-in-earnest.

The field in front of them was newly-paved concrete; clearly demarked and now lighted, even though it was not 2:00PM. Its wings and tail extended, the Silbervogel now nosed up; then deployed its landing-gear.

Touching down on the field, the bird streaked down the runway, its national markings on tail and wings now clearly visible. It stopped right in front of the bleachers.

Trucks and technicians sprang seemingly from nowhere; producing a ladder and opening the cockpit door, the techs helped a slightly-stiff Hauptmann Galland from his seat to the tumultuous cheers of the spectators, including Chancellor Hitler and his entourage.

Adolf Galland had circumnavigated the earth in less than two hours.
“Now, it is up to me.”, said Heisenberg, under his breath.

“What was that, Heisenberg?”, said Sanger.

“Oh, nothing, Herr Doktor. I have much to do.”

Much to do indeed, thought Heisenberg.



(Next – Eagle’s Nest – Part V)


sanger-rail-detail11

(Silbervogel plan and elevation detail – rail assembly with booster)

Trauen

“Dr. Sanger?”

Ja,” replied Sanger, suddenly distracted from a mountain of material on his too-small desk.

“I am the man you sent for.”

“Ah! VonBraun! Thank you for coming!” Sanger stood up, almost explosively – he’d always been accused of doing everything full-out, and greeting a collegue was never an exception. “Sit! Sit! How was your journey?”

“The SS insisted on the uniform–” – he held both hands out at his sides as if to show off – “and the rank is permanent, believe it or not, as I’m assigned to Himmler’s own project. I traveled via a private train here to Trauen. I didn’t even think they had rail service here.”

“They didn’t. Not until a year ago,” said Sanger. Kaffe?”

Ja, Herr Doktor.” Sanger summoned an aide and requested a coffee-service.

“Now – to the point.” Sanger stood, and walked to the big board where the plans for his Silverbird were on the wall. “You’ll notice that what we’re doing requires a rocket-booster, plus a massive engine inside the craft itself. The booster will drop away once the plane reaches 8 kilometers at 1,800 kilometers per hour. At this point, the main engines will fire, pushing the plane into the upper stratosphere at around 13,000 kilometers per hour.”

VonBraun looked astounded. “How do you propose to keep the fuel from boiling in the wings?”

“We don’t,” replied Sanger. “We will store the fuel in the body of the aircraft. The wings will be for secondary lift only. One of my associates – you’ve met Heisenberg; he’s not even in aeronautics; he’s a physicist, but he came up with this – suggested that we use the fuel as a coolant. Circulated in the top and sides, at the altitude we’ll eventually reach – about 250 kilometers – we’ll cool the fuel and use it to cool the engine.”

“Brilliant. And simple. Go back to that comment ‘secondary lift’. Do you mean to tell me that the wings don’t lift the plane?”

“Exactly. Note the design of the body itself. The plane’s body will create its own lift. It can’t fly to the altitude we’ll need under it’s own power; hence the booster. As to the wings, they’re used in the descent phase, to provide additional lift at slower speed. I’d originally designed the craft experimenting with swept-wings and straight-wings, but neither will stand up to the speeds we’ll need. I’ve developed a collapsing wing–” he pointed to the drawing – “the wing is a simple delta-wing, which will collapse in upon itself. This will be the launch position. On descent, the wings will be extended, helping slow the plane and allow for a gradual descent.”

Sanger continued, “It’s the same for the tail section. Here, it’s retracted for launch, providing minimal control. On descent, it can be telescopically extended, enabling full rudder control for landing.”

“Under power?”, said VonBraun. His interest was clearly piqued.

“No, there’ll be no need. We might need to fire the engines once or twice during the descent, but there’ll be plenty of fuel if my calculations are correct. No, the Silverbird will land, quiet as a ghost.”

“What about distance?”, said VonBraun.

“This plane will fly around the earth.”, replied Sanger, matter-of-factly. “Using the principle of ‘compression-lift’ – that is to say, surfing our own shock-wave at speed, and using the body of the aircraft to create it – we can literally ‘skip’ the upper atmosphere, deliver a 3,600 kilogram payload anywhere on earth, and gradually descend back to the launch point.”

“Incredible!”, said VonBraun. “You know, my whole life I’ve dreamed of helping create something like this.”

“That’s why I sent for you. Here, you’ll have a friendly sponsor – Herr Goering loves aircraft.”

“Right now,” said VonBraun, “I’m struggling for funding. Herr Hitler believes, but Herr Himmler does not. What about funding?”

“You are to the point!”, laughed Sanger. “We have all the funding we need. I had a personal audience with both Herr Hitler and Herr Goering; they’ve pledged me whatever I need to complete this project. Did you notice the construction crews out there?”

Ja, Herr Doktor, I did”, said VonBraun. He’d ignored, or failed to mention, the men in the striped-suits; prison labor from the camps which people discussed in hushed voices. “What is that you’re building?”

“This,” said Sanger, pushing the mounted drawing on its track to reveal the elevation-drawing of the rail-system. “This is how we’re going to launch the Silverbird We finished the retrieval airstrip first.”

VonBraun took a deep breath. “Brilliant, again, Herr Doktor. But how will you hide all this?”

We won’t.”, said Sanger. “If I’m right, we won’t ever have to.”

_________________________________________

Berlin

Fall had given way to winter – while construction was dormant, Sanger and the team had worked insane hours to perfect the design of the Silverbird. The math was sound; final wind tunnel tests had been completed, and full-scale construction of the booster and main engines had proceeded.

Winter gave way to spring, and the construction crews resumed digging, mixing, and pouring concrete. The construction of the large pylons and supports were daunting tasks – custom made cranes on large coffers were constructed, used, disassembled, and moved. Day by day, the project inched along – with the goal of late-summer always in mind.

“And how are our Eagles, Goering?” Hitler had taken to referring to Sanger’s team as ‘the Eagles’, and the name had stuck; it was the codename that the SS, the Gestapo, and the upper levels of government all used for the project in Trauen.

“The Eagles are on task and on schedule, Mein Fuhrer.”, said Goering. “They will finish the ramp by fall; the engines are being built now. They’ve requested a custom alloy for the frame and body of the craft which will be expensive to make, but we have the electricity to do so, and the raw materials. Sanger’s request for VonBraun and several of his team was a masterstroke, Mein Fuhrer – the engines are well ahead of schedule.”

“Good. Very good.”, replied Hitler. “That is an excellent team they’ve assembled. When will we be able to witness a test?”

“They are testing the engines early next year.”

“That long?”, Hitler replied, suddenly frosty. “It’s already 1939. The expansion of Greater Germany will not wait!” – his voice suddenly rising. “Raeder was in here yesterday! He was asking for more of those Japanese torpedoes, and more money for a project by some fellow named Walter. Goering, is all of this really necessary?”

Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering’s face grew red. “I am convinced that if we do not possess overwhelming force, with weapons that are well-ahead of those of the western democracies, we will ultimately fail. Besides –” – he paused for effect – “Walter’s people licensed the design to the Japanese two years ago. They’ve tested it, found the flaws, and improved on things as we knew they would. We can begin production of an entire new class of U-Boat in less than six months.”

There was a long and dread silence in the room. Hitler had been convinced of all this back in ’36, which was why he’d agreed not to press either the Czech or Polish question, and to leave the question of Aryanizing Europe off the table – his generals wouldn’t permit it, and he could see their point. It was frustrating in the extreme—

“Yes.”, said Hitler, tersely. “I’ve heard it before. Meantime, National Socialism advances slowly.”

“Yes.”, replied Goering. “But inexorably, and without defeat.”

__________________________________

Washington

Cordell Hull looked exhausted. The fall of 1939 had revealed that the Japanese were not only in Manchuria to stay, but their I-class submarines had been disappearing from ports, being replaced by two license-built designs from Germany. In Japanese, they were called “Sen Taka” – or fast-attack submarines. In English, they’d not been named – but they were causing havoc amongst America’s allies.

“I’m told, Mr. President, that our own destroyers can’t find these boats.”

“And how in hell do you know that, Cordell?” Lindbergh was equally tired of late, but his exhaustion was based on a fragile economy which was a full ten years in recovery from the worst economic catastrophe since 1879.

Hull, his Secretary of State, continued. “Because the British can’t find them, and their detection-gear is better than ours.”

More fond of aviation – his opponent in the ’36 election, Roosevelt, was more comfortable on water – he still supported the construction of aircraft carriers over submarines. “Hull, I really don’t care. Submarines won’t decide any war – if we have one – carriers will.”

“We have six, Mr. President, and they’re expensive to build and maintain.”

“Yes – I know–”, Lindbergh said, trailing off the last word and settling back in his chair.

Charles Lindbergh, the Republican nominee for President, had the looks, charm, and voice to convince the American people that Roosevelt had seen his day. Two terms were enough, he’d said – “It’s time to take America to new heights!” Invoking his legendary aviator past wasn’t hard – -the country still loved Lucky Lindy.

His victory, albeit by a hairline majority, had stunned nearly everyone. In fact, he hadn’t pulled even in the polls until October, and it was a stroke of genius – a self-promoted, self-piloted whistle-stop campaign to every major American city in thirty days in his Lockheed Electra, “America”, which had convinced enough of the American public to vote Republican in the ’36 election.

That was three years and a lifetime ago. He was under some pressure, to be sure, from ‘hawks’ in the Congress and Senate to rearm – but the funding simply wasn’t there. He couldn’t economically disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Americans by putting the nation in debt to buy aircraft carriers.

Besides, he believed Herr Hitler.

His last meeting with the National Socialist leader in Berlin had convinced him that Hitler was not only the soul of charm and grace, but vision. Hitler had shown him the plans he’d made for the new capitol, Germania – a celebration, Hitler had told him, of their common Aryan heritage. Hitler’s Germany was thriving. In fact, Lindbergh came away nothing if not a little jealous.

Time Magazine had named Hitler “Man of the Year” in 1938. He’d built the world’s most modern highway; had electrified every region of Germany, no matter how remote, with electricity which was too cheap to meter – so it was given away on a Party subsidy.

Unemployment in Germany was an enviable 3%. The currency was stable. They had a social-welfare system which was better than that of the United States.

It almost made Lindbergh wish there wasn’t a Constitution.

Hull broke his reverie. “Mr. President – Knox has suggested that we purchase the new British detection gear and refit our destroyers.”

“Knox would say that.”, said Lindbergh. “Any other requests? I’ll just go outside and plant money trees in the rose garden.”

Hull laughed. “No, Mr. President – but half of our fighters are still biplanes. There’s word from the British that both the Japanese and Germans are working on new aircraft-propulsion systems.”

“Where do they get this stuff?”, said Lindbergh, growing impatient. “I’m not interested in Herr Hitler’s military. He’s assured me, and I believe him, that he means us no harm.”

“Mr. President, I have no idea about Herr Hitler. I can only speak for my meetings with his Foreign Minister, Herr Ribbentrop – and he’s a snake in the grass.” Hull continued, “And I’ve got it on good authority from the Swedes that Hitler’s police are sweeping up every dissenter in Germany and sending them to labor camps.”

“Enough!”, said Lindbergh. “I’m not concerned about a few malcontents several thousand miles away. I’m concerned about this nation’s economy, and our ability to continue the recovery. We’re safe behind our borders. That’s good enough for me.”

Lindbergh stood. As with his counterpart an ocean away, this was a signal – a clear one – that the meeting was over.


(Next — Flight of the Eagle)


sanger-bomber1(Artist’s rendering – Eugen Sanger’s “Silbervogel”)

It is a time of peace.

Germany, under Chancellor Hitler, set two ambitious goals beginning in 1934 – the rebuilding of the national economy and the creation of a new military.

In order to create a new economy, cheap energy was needed on a scale unprecedented in history. While the Ruhr valley dams could and did provide electricity, the needed power for the new National Socialist dream would far exceed any projected supply.

Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn, two physicists at the Kaiser Wilhelm institute, had concluded in 1932 that nuclear fission was possible. This led to the research necessary for the construction of the world’s first powerplant near Trauen in 1938. Funded directly by Party money, the Trauen complex was the first of ten powerplants which were rapidly constructed by the National Socialists….

Trauen

Dr. Werner Heisenberg left the main administration building and stepped into the crisp fall air. Early October in Germany was beautiful. The leaves were starting to turn, but the temperatures still reached into the 70’s in the afternoon. It wouldn’t be long before snow fell, but today was beautiful.

“Dr. Sanger! I was just coming to see you!”, said Heisenberg.

“Really, now? Regarding?” Dr. Eugen Sanger, an aeronautical engineer and Heisenberg’s boss, was in a hurry, as usual.

“I had a thought about the cooling-problem you were experiencing with your new aircraft,” Heisenberg began. “I was wondering if you couldn’t use the fuel itself as a coolant.”

“Oh?”, said Sanger, his interest piqued. “Walk with me. I have a meeting with the Todt Organisation people in a few minutes.”

“Well, I was thinking – – running lines through the main body near the top and sides, where the friction is much less, would enable the fuel to cool rapidly at the altitudes at which you’re suggesting the aircraft fly. You could easily route them as a cooling-jacket for the engine. No need to carry coolant – the fuel would do that.”

Sanger’s eyes widened. “It would be like flying a bomb.”

“You’re flying one anyway,” replied Heisenberg. “As long as the pressure remains constant, fuel won’t stay in one place long enough to overheat. You’ll solve two problems with one system – how much weight would that save?”

“Enough to get us airborne, and complete the mission,” said Sanger. “But we have another problem; one that’s not so easy to solve. The body-lift theory is sound – but in denser air, I need a completely different wing-structure in order to be maneuverable. Conventional straight or swept-wing designs are simply causing too much instability and vibration. That’s why I’m going to the Todt people and asking for an audience with Herr Goering.”

Heisenberg blanched. In medaeval Europe, it wasn’t a good idea to get too close to the King – and Goering was Reichsmarschall; second in many ways to Hitler himself. Mercurial and difficult, both Sanger and Heisenberg had found it was a good thing to speak to some of Goering’s underlings regarding his mood before approaching him. Results were better that way.

They entered one of the other administrative buildings on the campus. This was the nominal headquarters of the Todt Organisation – the National Socialist party’s official engineering and construction arm. Obtaining funding through the Party was far easier – but the Todt people actually controlled the labor supply, and anything Sanger wanted had to be approved.

________________________________

“So far, the rest of the world believes we’re building powerplants,” said Sanger. “Goebbels and his people have done a good job of that. But the second phase of what we’re doing is going to require much more secrecy, as well as a lot of labor – skilled labor – and we need it quickly to meet the Fuhrer’s schedule.”

“What do you need to build?”, said the Todt representative, a good-natured fellow named Hans, who Heisenberg speculated was a contractor of some sort before being drafted into the Todt Organization.

“This,” said Sanger, rolling out his plans.

Both Heisenberg and ‘Hans’ drew a collective breath.

Sanger’s plans showed a 1:1000 scale – anything larger would not have fit on the two-meter conference table. The plans were for a ramp – starting at ground level, and rising slowly, with the final 1/3 taking a steeper incline until it was nearly vertical. The overall height was a little over 300 meters high.

Supported by huge outside angled pylons which looked like flying-buttresses and straight columns from the center, the ramp looked like nothing short of a huge railroad bridge – only there was one rail in the center.

‘What on earth is this FOR?”, said Hans.

“It’s for an aircraft. That’s all you need to know,” said Sanger, impatiently.

“But – this is over three kilometers long!”, said Hans.

“Yes. It is.”

“How many people will you need?”

“That is your department,” said Sanger. “All I know is that I’ve been ordered to have this in place by the end of next summer.”

“We only have about a month of real construction weather this year. Perhaps enough for soil engineering and footings. The bulk of the work will have to be done next year.”

“As long as it’s in place by the end of summer. We need to test by then while we still have decent weather left,” Sanger replied. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have other work to do.” Sanger began rolling up his elevation plan; Heisenberg helped with his other papers.

____________________________________

Walking back to the research complex, Heisenberg wondered if he should ask his boss about the aviation project. He decided that was probably not a good idea. His function was physics; he left engineering powerplants – or aircraft – to those who knew how.

“Lost in thought again, Heisenberg?”

“Ah! Sorry, Dr. Sanger. I was thinking, yes.”

“You’re good at it, if a bit forgetful and unfocused at times. But your ideas might have made my own project viable,” said Sanger, getting back to his aircraft again.

“Dr. Sanger?”

“Yes?” Sanger was showing some of his legendary impatience.

“May I ask what this aircraft is for?”

“No, Heisenberg, you may not. And you won’t ask again. Although I might ask you for some assistance from time to time.”

“I see. Why not just involve the Blohm and Voss people, or the Messerschmitt folk? Certainly they can help.”

“No, and no, Heisenberg. They cannot. And you won’t mention it, either.”

Ja, Herr Doktor,” replied Heisenberg. Back to physics. And to keep his mouth shut….

Berlin

“I am concerned about the safety of the thing.”

Mein Fuhrer, the first plant at Trauen was constructed as safely as we know how. The others were built quickly. They are all producing the explosive-metal we need as a byproduct of cheap electricity–”

Hitler cut off the Reichsmarschall. “I’m not talking about the plants! I’m talking about this – plane!”

Goering’s face grew red. “My apologies, Mein Fuhrer. So much of this reports directly to me now. I am sometimes overwhelmed.”

“We will get you more help, Goering,” replied Hitler, icily. “Now, tell me why I should ask a pilot to risk his life in this thing?”

Sanger spoke. “Herr Chancellor, the Silbervogel” – here, he used the codename “Silverbird” with which Goering was so pleased — “will have a pressurized cockpit and a form-fitting seat – this is for support during the intense pressures of takeoff, but will also provide safety and a degree of comfort for the pilot. All safety precautions are being taken regarding the device, when it is ready.” Sanger didn’t say what the men in the room already knew – the real reason for Heisenberg’s research; the breakneck pace at which they’d constructed uranium-fission powerplants; the experiments with graphite-rods and heavy water.

National Socialist Germany was close to producing an atomic weapon.

_________________________________

“So, what is the advantage to us if we pour more millions of Reichsmarks into this project, Herr Doktor?” Hitler was impatient; even more so than Sanger, which unnerved him.

“If the research is fully funded, through the test phase and construction of prototype, I’m reasonably certain we can provide the Reich with an airplane that can fly to the edge of space and land safely,” said Sanger. He waited on tenterhooks for the Fuhrer’s reply.

Hitler paused. Then, he spoke. “And, apart from the glory of Greater Germany, what will we gain?”

Now, Sanger paused. A moment later, he said, “Herr Chancellor, apart from the pilot, the aircraft can carry a payload. If Heisenberg and Hahn remain on task and produce a weapon by the end of 1940, we can carry and deliver it to any point on the planet. Further, due to the altitude at which the Silbervogel will fly, no aircraft in current production can reach it. The destructive capacity of the weapon, combined with an unstoppable and unreachable aircraft, will guarantee us the ability to destroy any nation which dares to resist us.”

Hitler received this news with a stone face. Abruptly, he burst out laughing and slapped his leg, almost in caricature. Herr Doktor, you have not created a ‘bird’ – das ist der Teufels adler!”

Sanger visibly relaxed; smiling. “You will have the funding you need, Herr Doktor.” Hitler stood. The meeting was officially over.

Sanger had the funding for both his project and Heisenberg’s. Now, the only thing to do was work – and work hard; there was much to do….
(Next — A Gathering of Eagles)